Jam Roly Poly: Because baby it’s cold outside…

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Like the rest of Britain, my little corner of the Shire is caked in snow. What better reason to stay indoors, crank up the oven – particularly if your heating is as ineffective as mine – and bake something to keep you warm?

Jam roly poly is one of my top puddings and despite falling out of favour for a few years, is beginning to return to the height of tea time popularity.

Part of the reason many people recoil from this delicious treat is the fact it contains suet. You may not think that your desserts have been lacking in rendered beef fat, but they have. The technical details of what suet is fail to mention the light unctuous flavour of pastries and puddings made with it. If you are currently retching into a bucket reading this, vegetarian suet is available, although it never seems as rich to me and yields a slightly stodgier result.

It’s worth mentioning that jam roly poly hails from a time when food was scarce and every calorie counted… in the opposite way to how it does now. This is not something you want to eat every day, but building all those snowmen is going to take fuel.

I can only offer one serving suggestion for this:

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Judge, lest not ye be judged…

Jam Roly Poly 
Serves: 8-10
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 40 minutes

Ingredients:

250g self raising flour
75g golden caster sugar
150g suet (veggie if you must)
1/2 cup cold water
1/2 cup raspberry jam
An egg, beaten

1) Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celcium. Sift the flour into a bowl and add the caster sugar. Plonk in the suet and just enough water to create a soft, but not too sticky dough.

2) Pop your dough onto a floured work surface and try to shape it roughly into a rectangle. Aim for 8 x 12 and about 1cm thick. Place it landscape in front of you. Now for the nerve wracking bit.

3) Zap your jam in the microwave for 30 seconds and grab a pastry brush. Generously paint your flat poly with jam, leaving a 1cm border around the edge. When you’re done, fold the jamless border in on to itself, to encase the lovely jammy centre.

4) Take a deep breath (or a swig of wine), and begin rolling the roly poly up like a giant swissroll. Move steadily, trying to keep straight but keeping it tight. Tightness is paramount. Transfer to a greased baking sheet as elegantly as you can manage.

ImageYes, it’s winning no beauty contests, and somewhat resembling my pale, cellulitey thigh after eating too much of it.

5) Generously cover your roly poly with beaten egg to make it a little prettier, then whack it in the oven for 40 minutes. You should probably spend that time doing push ups.

6) Remove from the oven and allow to cool very briefly, before slicing generously, covering in custard and thoroughly enjoying.

A word of warning… you must roll this tightly. If you don’t, it might just lose its lovely Swiss roll shape and become a bit rounder…

ImageStill delicious. And we’re snowed in, so nobody is going to be round to see it.

Justin’s Coffee and Walnut Cake

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There is a reason this post has only one picture.

It’s because this is by far my favourite cake in the world. It’s the cake I make most often, the cake that is devoured most regularly by my friends and family and quite possibly one of the most important components of my last meal.

And before I could fire up my good camera and dig out a pretty cake plate, it was gone.

Behold, the coffee and walnut cake.

I have named this Justin’s Coffee and Walnut Cake as my dear friend Justin is the only person who loves this cake more than I do. An otherwise kind and gentle man, I could see him starting a fist fight for a minute sliver of this cake.

The recipe that follows is entirely my own, although I have never before written it out. I complete it on auto pilot so often that it never occurred to me how much of everything went into it.

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One ingredient I must insist on is Camp Coffee. It’s a thick sludgy emulsion of coffee, sugar and chicory that your grandparents are likely to have kept in the cupboards as standard. As revolting as the description sounds, it’s absolutely delicious and makes the cake taste like the sweet aromatic tea time treats of yesteryear. I have tried numerous recipes that substitute cooled espresso, instant coffee powder, etc. but nothing compares.

You’ll find it in the supermarket at the very edge of the tea and coffee aisle, or occasionally tucked away with the home baking ingredients.

And secondly… always weigh your eggs.

It seems pointless, especially with the stringent sizing laws on eggs these days, but by weighing the eggs and adding equal quantities of self raising flour, butter and caster sugar, I’m yet to have a sponge cake fail on me. The amounts given below are typical for a four-egg sponge but adjust as necessary.

Finally… despite all my fancy kitchen equipment, I always make a sponge cake in the food processor. In this case, the icing too. I add an extra teaspoon of baking powder out of fear that there’s not enough air in there, but it’s probably me worrying too much about the possibility of missing out on perfect cake.

Justin’s Coffee and Walnut Cake

Serves: 10 (technically)
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:

225g unsalted butter, softened
225g caster sugar
Four large eggs
225g self raising flour
3 tablespoons Camp Coffee
1 teaspoon baking powder
A splash of milk (optional)

For the icing:

150g unsalted butter, softened
250g icing sugar (no need to sift if using the mighty food processor)
2 tablespoons Camp Coffee (or more, to taste)

75g walnuts, chopped, to decorate

1) Preheat oven to 190 degrees Celcius. Grease and flour two deep 9 or 10 inch sandwich tins.

2) In the food processor, or with a hand mixer, or even with a good arm and a wooden spoon, combine the butter and the caster sugar. Cream until pale and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes in the food processor.

3) Add the eggs one at a time, making sure that each one is accompanied by a tablespoon of flour and thoroughly combined before the next one is added. Then dump in the rest of the flour and the baking powder, if using. The mixture should have a similar consistency to thick custard – if that’s not the case, loosen it with a little milk.

4) Finally, pour in the coffee. The cake mix should now be the colour of dulche leche… mmm…

5) Divide between your two prepared sandwich tins and place in the middle of your preheated oven. Allow to bake for 25-30 minutes, until slightly cracked on top and springing back when poked. If they appear to be browning too quickly, pop a little foil on top. Remove from the oven to a cooling rack, removing from their tins after five minutes. Allow to cool completely.

6) Use this time to get to work on your icing. Place the butter, icing sugar and coffee in the food processor and blitz til creamy. Scrape down the sides and repeat. It’s worth noting that this makes just enough icing to sandwich the cakes together and cover the top – I usually make a little more for eating straight off the spoon.

7) When the cakes are cool, sandwich them together with half of the icing, using the rest to cover the top. Add a scattering of chopped walnuts, put the kettle on and prepare to gorge.

Just don’t tell Justin. Unless you are willing to share.

Cooking the clippings: Simple Cinnamon Cake

Some days I really love my job. Those days are often Mondays, when I get a large pile of Sunday newspapers plonked in front of me, and I’m expected to peruse them all page by page with a cup of tea in hand.Fresh from the oven, endangered!

This process usually leaves me with a pile of clippings that I have ripped out – articles to read later, fashion pages to drool over and pretend I can afford the contents of… and recipes. So many recipes. I have decided to make a concerted effort to actually begin cooking some of these recipes and showcasing them here on the blog.

Our first candidate was actually not actually a newspaper clipping, but a recipe hastily shoved in my pocket while shopping at Sainsbury’s. I think I found it by the butter. It languished in my coat for a few months and has now been baked repeatedly. I give you the simple cinnamon cake.

Not impressed? Read on. The cinnamon cake will not win any beauty contests. But it is the ideal cake to sit unassumingly in a tin over the winter months to be produced with a flourish when guests arrive and deserve more than a slightly crumbly biscuit.

I have only made a single modification to the original recipe – dispensing of mace, because I don’t like it or keep it in the house. I’ve been meaning to scale up the recipe to two sandwich tins and fill it with apple pie filling (don’t judge) and cinnamon buttercream… but for now, enjoy it in its unadorned delightful state.

Simple cinnamon cake
Serves: 8
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cooking time: 45 minutes

Ingredients:

180g caster sugar
100g butter
2 medium eggs
250g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp cinnamon
200ml milk
Cinnamon sugar to make the top all pretty (or use cinnamon and sugar if you prefer!)

1) Preheat the oven to 180 degrees. Lightly grease a 20cm non-stick cake pan. Or whip out the cake release spray that all sane women have.

2) Cream the sugar and butter together until pale and creamy.

3) Beat in the eggs one at a time. Put some welly into it!

4) Fold in the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and milk, making sure everything is combined. Scrape down the bowl a couple of time for good measure. Nobody’s watching.

5) Pour into your prepared cake tin and pop into the oven for about 40 minutes, by which time your house will smell like a bakery and the delicious cake will be coming away from the sides of the tin. Pop it out and sprinkle generously with a couple of tablespoons of cinnamon sugar before returning it to the oven for five minutes to glaze.

6) Remove from the tin and allow to cool on a wire rack. Best eaten within 48 hours and stored in an airtight tin. A slightly stale cake can be revived by a blast in the microwave and a generous coating of custard… but what can’t?

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